Lemaire locks sights on Kawada as Equinox limbers up

A sixth JRA champion jockey title is a high priority for the Frenchman, as is adding to Equinox’s already impressive haul of Group 1 wins.

Christophe Lemaire is looking forward to reuniting with Japan's reigning Horse of the Year Equinox. (Photo by Mohammad Karamali)

David Morgan

Chief Journalist


There was no first ‘Arc’ victory for Christophe Lemaire at Longchamp on Sunday, but the star rider heads back to Japan in positive mood on two fronts: that his season-long title battle with Yuga Kawada is only just getting going, and that Equinox remains the horse to beat in the JRA (Japan Racing Association)’s autumn majors.

Lemaire’s trip to his homeland to ride Carrot Farm’s Through Seven Seas in the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe afforded Kawada an opportunity to extend his lead at the top of the JRA jockey standings.

The reigning champion, who last year stalled Lemaire’s run of champion jockey titles at five, took three wins from the weekend thanks to a double at Hanshin and victory in the big one at Nakayama, the G1 Sprinters Stakes, on Mama Cocha.


That put Kawada on 121 wins for the year, five ahead of Lemaire. Both riders are likely to head to the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita a month from now – Lemaire could ride Derma Sotogake there and Kawada is likely to ride Ushba Tesoro in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic – but aside from that distraction, the pair will be focused on going toe-to-toe in Japan through to the end of the year.

Lemaire is relishing the test but knows it will be tough.

“It’s a big motivation,” he told Asian Racing Report from France. “I’m in front for one or two weeks, for the next two weeks Yuga is in front, so I (missed this) weekend and he will take a few lengths in front.

“I will have to work hard to catch him, but I am confident because from (Saturday) it will be the Tokyo Racecourse season and I usually have a lot of winners on that racecourse. That makes me feel confident that I’ll be competitive against Yuga, but he’s having a tremendous season, with a big winning average, and it will be a hard fight to the 30th of December.” 

Yuga Kawada gets everything out of Mama Cocha (right) in the closing stages of the G1 Sprinters Stakes. (Photo by Shuhei Okada)

Kawada is renowned for being selective about which mounts he takes and for riding at a high winning percentage. That figure is currently a remarkable 32 percent compared to Lemaire’s very good 24 per cent.

Lemaire drew a blank at Longchamp but did nab a Listed win at Saint-Cloud last Friday for a 25 percent strike from only four rides during his working visit. He steered Through Seven Seas to a meritorious fourth behind the standout French colt Ace Impact in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe itself, a race in which Westover was third. That gives further weight to the form of his regular mount Equinox, Japan’s current champion and the world’s top-rated racehorse.

Equinox slammed Westover by three and a half lengths in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan back in March, and he was value for much more than the neck margin he had over Through Seven Seas in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen in June. That was the impressive bay’s latest run, but the Tetsuya Kimura-trained four-year-old is warming up for his autumn campaign at Miho training centre.    

Ace Impact roars past Westover in the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. (Photo by Dimitar Dilkoff)

Equinox dazzled in the G1 Sheema Classic at Meydan. (Photo by Shuhei Okada)

Equinox sweeps home for an extraordinary victory in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen. (Photo by Shuhei Okada)

“Equinox is doing very well,” Lemaire said of Silk Racing’s superstar. “I heard from the trainer that he was in very good shape after his win in the Takarazuka Kinen and was not as tired as he was after the Dubai Sheema Classic, so that’s a very good sign.

“The president of Silk Racing announced that Equinox will run the Tenno Sho Autumn in Tokyo, and then will target the Japan Cup, so I’m really looking forward to riding him again; everything looks to be fine with him.”




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